The Walk of (Skinny) Shame: Victoria’s Secret, Body Shape and Policing Bodies

By Nadia Patel

So, it’s that time of year again, pictures from the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show are floating around the internet and as per usual social media is having a field day. Now, I am not going to lie, sitting down and watching the show is one of my favourite things to do every year. I love looking at the pictures on Instagram and Twitter and admiring all the glamour and work that goes into a show of that scale.

There are, however, a few things I notice every year all over social media and in everyday conversation that just doesn’t sit right with me and one of those things is skinny shaming.  Every year the Victoria’s Secret show opens the flood gates for an onslaught of body shaming comments. I read all sorts of posts where women and men alike pass judgements on the way the models look, using words like “anorexic” dismissively. We live in a day and age where models supposedly represent today’s “ideal” beauty standards, but the majority of us women do not look like that. This does not however mean that it is ok for us to pass comments over another woman’s weight. I have been in many situations where women have made comments about the sizes of some of my slimmer friends saying things like “doesn’t your mother feed you?” or “you’re all skin and bones”. This is not ok. Now if we flip this and put a curvier girl on the receiving end of that, everyone will jump to her defence and quite rightly so, because we recognise that it is wrong. So why do we not see it this way when it is a skinnier girl we are talking about? How is it ok to draw attention to one girl’s weight in a way that wouldn’t be acceptable when aimed at another girl?

I was having a conversation with someone the other day about a model and this person flippantly made a comment about how “she’s probably anorexic anyway”. We need to recognise that there is a big difference between being slim and being anorexic. Anorexia is a serious problem and if we think someone we know may be anorexic, it is not to be taken lightly, we can’t just throw the word around however we see fit. We also need to recognise that someone being slim does not inherently mean that they are anorexic. It is important to understand that there are a lot of different factors that affect any individual’s weight. There are many reasons for why a person may be unable to lose weight and similarly there are many reasons as to why a person might not be able to put on weight, for example, illness and medication. We are not entitled to make these judgements of other people. Just recently actress Sarah Hyland opened up about her own body struggles. She talked about how people were leaving comments on her Instagram posts telling her to “eat a burger” and saying things like “your head is bigger than your body”. Hyland went on to explain that her weight loss was a result of health problems that she was tackling.

I do however understand peoples’ frustrations when it comes to shows like Victoria’s Secret. They only portray one beauty standard and it becomes difficult for the average woman to relate. The brand could definitely do a lot more for inclusivity and diversity. Only one body type is presented whilst the product is supposedly marketed towards every woman. Some brands have adopted a far more realistic approach in their campaigns through the use of plus size models and by not photoshopping models with stretch marks and it is definitely a step in the right direction. Brands like Victoria’s Secret should take a leaf out of their books, but this still does not mean that it is justified to skinny shame the models that walk their runway.

Women should not tear down other women in an age where feminism is at such a peak. Many of us  like to think of ourselves as open-minded people but then fall in to these little traps of shaming each other. We should be each other’s biggest fans, weight and looks aside. If we can’t respect each other then how can we expect anyone else to respect us? We should celebrate every woman’s beauty.

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About the author

Nadia is currently in her third year of studying English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Westminster. Gender equality has interested her from a young age, specifically focusing on her Indian heritage and the politics that come with being a girl of Indian descent in the 21st century. It is a very important issue for her and she wants to use her writing to do her part in making the women of today feel heard. In her free time she enjoys travelling and photography.

Image credit

Marylou Faure (maryloufaure.com, @maryloufaure)

Editor

Lucy Wheeler

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A Letter to the Narcissist Who Broke My Heart

By Ruth Ankers

When I met you, you were in a relationship which had been going on for nine years. How I let myself trust you after you so casually blew that off and perused me, I will never understand. Maybe, it’s because you made me feel like this was the first time you had ever felt this way, that I was some sort of revelation in your life, that you needed me.

You didn’t need me. You needed a comfortable way out of your last relationship, I was your buoyancy aid, to cushion the blow. What I didn’t realise was that eventually you would wear me down in such an epic way, that you would learn to float and I would sink back down.

A person like you prefers it when they are being idolised – so imagine the audacity one evening when I plucked up the courage to ask you, “will you ever tell your ex girlfriend you cheated on her, how can you be such good friends with her now when she doesn’t know that it happened, and that it happened more than once?”

The Narcissist is quick to respond and armed with the perfect defence: “you’ve never had a nine year relationship, so you wouldn’t understand, I went above and beyond for her”.
The way you undermined me and my experience shut me up. For a while.

Dating you (or not dating you) was like exit-ing my own world and temporarily setting up camp in yours (although, I was only allowed to pitch my tent on the outskirts and commute in when required).

You made me feel both that you needed me in your life, and that I was not and would never be quite good enough for you. It was terrifyingly confusing.

My brain was at war with itself.

I lost two stone, cue the “I didn’t tell you to do that”.

No, you didn’t in a matter of words (and this is the hardest bit to explain and how a narcissist will never get blamed).

You made me FEEL like I needed to. Through the way to spoke about women, the way you approached other women, the comments you made on the women you had photographed.

You would give and yield in perfect harmony, and I rode those waves for nearly two years. It was impossible to keep up and every time I caught my breath and let out a “wait this is wrong I need to stop doing this”, you would ask me where it had come from and tell me I was crazy.

I showered you with cards and gifts and poems desperately seeking your affection and you casually asked me: “what’s your address again, I was meant to send that thing to you”. I waited and it never came.

But of course, you would say, I’m the fool for waiting around or hoping your card would turn up.

Throughout the time we were a relationship, a friendship, a war. You made me feel like I was insignificant, and then you blamed me for allowing myself to feel that way.

When we eventually called it a day, it was because I finally found some strength somewhere to fight back and tell you how you were making me feel. After months of you convincing me I was just being crazy, that I was over reacting, that I needed to calm down… it came out like word vomit and I couldn’t stop.

All the bullets that I had saved up came firing out, and you did a fantastic job of looking like the victim. You did a fantastic job of making me look and feel like I had suddenly with no rhyme or reason, lost the plot, and then to add insult to injury – you seamlessly managed to convince me I had always been this way, even before I met you.

You should win an academy award for your performance because it was so perfectly executed that I believed you, and I even think you convinced yourself!

Science tells you if you wind up motor and give it enough energy it will take off. The only other option is that it internally combusts, you would have preferred that of me, wouldn’t you?

It must be about a year since the last time we spoke and I am still dealing with the bomb site you left me in. I am trying so hard. More so because you made me feel like I created this myself, and some days I don’t have the strength to believe the people around me who tell me otherwise.

I have met multiple great men who I cannot be with because at every sniff of them loving me, I assume the worst and kick them to the curb to protect myself.

It doesn’t surprise me that you have found someone else, an article I recently read put it perfectly:

“The narcissist will continue as if nothing ever happened and they are innocent. They won’t choose to remember that powerful bond they had with someone and instead choose to find it somewhere else. However a time will come when they know they can neither sufficiently connect with themselves or other people”.

People always say take a positive from a negative. Unfortunately this time around, you have left me with such a huge backlog of insecurities and trust issues (just like you have with your ex) that I am still wading through this a year later. Finding the strength from somewhere everyday to fight off your voice in my head.

“In this situation she/he must realise they too are in a bad situation, something of which the narcissist in their life always spoke of. But it their case it will be different. They will make positive efforts to address this and heal themselves slowly. The narcissist will not”

Just remember that. I’m getting there.

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About the Author

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Ruth Ankers is a Drama and Applied Theatre Practitioner and Teacher. She favours writing poetry and short plays. Ruth is a firm believer in equality of gender and is really exited to be writing for Gender + the City!

How My Belly Button Piercing Was My First Real Act of Bodily Autonomy

By Andrea Francesca Verginella Paina

”Spring break forever, bitches”. The words that inspired my belly button piercing. And no, this is not a preamble to a cool spring break story.screen-shot-2017-05-29-at-3-42-53-pm

I was sixteen and had just watched the movie Spring Breakers by Harmony Korine with my best girls, and we left the theatre feeling electric. What was cooler than seeing four trashy girls with ”normal” bodies shooting guys in neon bathing suits? The main thing I noticed about the girls from the film, is that they all had a pretty little diamond hanging from their belly buttons.

I had been on the fence about getting a belly button piercing for a few months because I was starting to get into a throwback trash style, and a few girls from high school had them. I asked some of my girlfriends at school one day whether they thought I should get one, but they told me ”no” because my stomach wasn’t flat enough. I was thin, but I was going through puberty and my body was still figuring out it’s shape, and how to adjust – so, at the time I had skinny legs and a nice little buddha belly.

So, I didn’t get the piercing. That’s how ashamed sixteen year old me was of my body.

However, after seeing these four bellied girls on screen, their rhinestone-dressed navels shining in the sun, I decided in that moment that I would get one for myself the next day.

I thought about asking my parents for their permission, as I usually did when I got a piercing, but I realised that now that I was sixteen, it was legal to do it alone.

The next day I marched into that $15 piercing place in Kensington market, determined to have a hole in my belly. After seeing that little shine on my own stomach, I felt hotter than Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson having a threesome with James Franco.

screen-shot-2017-05-29-at-3-45-14-pmWhen my mom saw it, she was shocked but understood that this was the first decision I had been allowed to make about my body without anyone else’s input. Naturally, my dad freaked out. It’s hard for parents to lose control, they’ve spent years adapting to having to make sure that nothing happens to this little being they’ve given their love to, knowing that they have to make every decision on their behalf, and hoping it’s the right one. As soon as your parents get used to that… their child begins to start making their own choices.

This was my moment, my step up to womanhood. And you know what? I might never have flat abs, my FUPA may never change, but I still rock the hell out of my piercing.

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About the Author

Photo on 2017-11-18 at 4.04 PM #2

Andrea Francesca Verginella Paina is 21 year old Canadian Feminist living in Milan. She is a stylist that is obsessed with nude selfies, good food, pigs and pleasers. Her dream is to one day open a lingerie & sex shop that acts as a safe space for women + femme presenting + gender non conforming people.

Follow Francesca:

Instagram: @diamondzinmypssy

Tumblr: https://andreafrancescastyling.tumblr.com

(All images authors own)

Consent: A Relationship Minefield

By Giulia Boggio

Jump back into the past: I’m nineteen, I am with a guy and I really like him. Sex is decent, a solid B-, but I am still in the learning process of how my body works and I think something must be wrong if I don’t come very often, especially when penetration is involved. In general, I feel like I want it less than he does. Sometimes I fake it. Now he will expect me to come every time, and he won’t stop until I do. Guys are stubborn and take our pleasure  r e a l l y  personally. Oh no, it’s not because they want to make us happy, god forbid, it’s because of their ego.

The worst comes when I say I’m not really into it, or I don’t want to. He pushes for it and insist, until I give up and say OK. After years of talking to men, and dating them, I still struggle to understand how come they could possibly enjoy intercourse after having to beg &/or force you into it.

Apparently, it’s impossible for him to believe that I don’t want to have sex, he says that I am just playing and that “I will like it eventually”. I discover how some men can’t really take a no for an answer, no matter how much they say they care about you, there’s something that they can’t let you hurt, and that’s their ego. So big, so fragile.

This is how I learnt that consent, for most girls in their teens and twenties: it’s a blurry concept, and not entirely in our hands. The sense of entitlement from guys is so pressuring, that they seem to think consent is a universal agreement – desire is mandatory. Therefore, if I don’t want to have sex with you, I am wrong, you are gonna play the victim and blame me, until you’ll put me in the position of never expressing my feelings again and letting you do. And mostly, if I enjoy sex once, I have to always want to have sex. Consent, for most girls, is something you agree to once, and then it’s valid forever.

We know that if we say no, we have at least to justify why, bring solid evidence, have reasonable excuses. It’s a weird feeling, having to excuse yourself for something so natural as desire, it feels wrong. Our desire is scrutinised, we have to prove that what we’re saying is genuine, that it has nothing to do with how much we love/like them, that there’s nothing wrong. I found myself explaining basic concepts to so many men it’s exhausting. I realised there’s something broken in the concept of relationships we’re given: the concepts of possession, entitlement, the normalisation of abuse and emotional blackmailing, the sense of duty. Love is not a key for all the locks, but it’s often used as a pass to force partners into things they’re not completely into. I see a lot of women broken by this idea of relationship and it’s heartbreaking.

What can we do to help this? Firstly, it’s important to fight for sex-ed in schools, to have programs and to have working ones. We don’t have to stop at the basic How To Not Getting Pregnant or How To Slip A Banana Into A Condom. We need to teach boys and girls consent, respect, boundaries within and outside relationships. There has been a program in Nairobi teaching “consent classes” to kids: the program led, in just few years, to “an average 51% decrease of rape, and the percentage of boys who intervened in a situation of harassment increased from 26% to 74%.” The numbers speak, and underline another important point: speaking out. We need intervene when we see something bad happening, we have to use out voice and our actions to stop it when we can. And I’m not even thinking about a superhero-me in a cape spanking abusive boyfriends (even though…), but just telling douche bags that they’re being douche bags would be a good start. After the #metoo campaign it’s pretty clear that we all know someone who have been harassed, therefore we must know someone who, at different levels, harassed. It’s vital to state clearly that we don’t want to be their accomplices anymore.

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About the Author

Giulia Boggio is a graphic designer and photographer from Italy. Her interests move from art to gender politics. She worked as a freelance writer for different magazines and is passionate about poetry.